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North Hills Monthly

Mobile Apps Make Shopping a Snap—or Rather, a Tap

Nov 01, 2016 06:47AM ● By Jennifer Monahan

As someone who has often wrangled a bulky purse, diaper bag, backpack, stroller, child(ren) and essential travel mug full of strong coffee through the store, I am always on the lookout for ways to make the shopping process easier. A number of mobile apps designed to do exactly that are now available to shoppers in possession of a smartphone.

Key Ring is a favorite because it immediately decreases the clutter in my purse. The app allows users to scan and upload the information from a store’s loyalty or membership card (those little tags that live on your keyring and proceed to shed their laminate coatings and curl in on the edges precisely four seconds after you add them). For the obsessive among us who need a back-up plan in place, the app also has users take a photo of the front and back of the loyalty card. All the information is stored within the app and accessible with one tap. Once your personal cards are loaded, the app will keep track of coupons and weekly sales offered by those stores. Users can also give the app access to their location, and it will list discounts and coupons available nearby, regardless of whether they have a loyalty card for that business. 

Flipp is another app that keeps track of a user’s loyalty cards and then uses them to search local fliers for coupons and deals. Flipp recently added a feature that allows individuals to snap a photo of a grocery list, then tap on each item to check it off the list. 

The Gyft app is similar to Key Ring, but is designed to manage gift cards so that people do not have to carry the cards around or remember to grab a particular one on their way out the door. Users can purchase gift cards for others as well, offering a paperless and easy way to procure last-minute gifts with a few simple clicks—and without a trip to a store.

Groupon and RetailMeNot are essential apps for budget-conscious shoppers. Both offer discounts on everything from restaurants and electronics to clothing and hotels. Groupon has deals on experiences like waterpark passes or paintball packages, and offers users access to discounts at local businesses as well as national chains. Savvy consumers can score deals on things like oil changes, kids’ craft projects and luggage.

RetailMeNot will pull up coupons and sales at different stores. The RetailMeNot website is a great place to search for coupon codes when ordering items online. One great feature of the app is that a shopper can pull up store coupons while waiting in line at places like Michael’s or Carter’s, ask the cashier to scan the coupon bar code, and get money off the purchase just for spending a few seconds tapping the screen on a smartphone.

PriceGrabber offers shoppers the chance to search by product to find out whether they are getting the best price available. For example, if someone wants to buy disinfectant wipes but is unsure about where to purchase them at the lowest cost, a simple search for that item will pull up the prices at a slew of online stores. One click will take the person directly to the seller’s website. The same process works equally well for items as varied as Blu-Ray disc players, hockey sticks and the latest David Baldacci book. RedLaser and ScanLife are other popular comparison shopping apps with similar functionality.

A number of stores have created their own apps to provide customers with information about sales and coupons. Target, Best Buy, Home Depot, Lowe’s, Kohl’s, Costco and many other retailers offer apps that have basic information like store hours or directions but also provide updates about sales and special deals. 

The Walmart app distinguishes itself from the pack because of the Walmart Savings Catcher, a feature within the existing Walmart app. The app allows users to scan their Walmart receipts at the time of purchase and up until seven days later. The app compares advertised deals that match eligible items on the receipt. If a lower advertised price is found, the customer gets the difference back from Walmart.

For the true technophiles out there, mobile payment apps offer consumers the option of leaving their wallets at home. Apps such as PayPal, Apple Pay, Android Pay and Samsung Pay require users to enter credit card information for at least one credit or debit card. From there, individuals can literally tap their smart phones to pay for purchases in brick-and-mortar stores, as long as the store itself accepts that service.

Even if customers may not be ready to scrap their wallets altogether in favor of online payment, a number of shopping apps out there deserve consideration. For both convenience and savings, apps offer consumers some helpful tools that are definitely worth the tap.